President-elect Joe Biden

Joe Biden is barreling into his first science

2021/03/03 16:39 家族

President Joe Biden is barreling into his first science-vs.-politics showdown with powerful Southern Republican governors, one that could define the outcome of the race to vaccinate enough Americans before variants take hold.

Biden on Tuesday warned the country to dig in for a while longer as he flexed sweeping wartime powers under the Defense Production Act in another big leap forward in the inoculation drive, announcing there would be enough doses for all US adults by the end of May. He unveiled a pioneering plan for pharmaceutical giant Merck to make a vaccine developed by its rival Johnson & Johnson.

"There is light at the end of the tunnel, but we cannot let our guard down now to ensure victory is inevitable; we can't assume that. We must remain vigilant, act fast and aggressively and look out for one another," the President said.

But the governors of Texas and Mississippi defied federal government warnings to not relax restrictions and open their economies too fast, going it alone as new infections plateau at high levels and fears grow over a huge spike in the coming weeks. On Monday, Dr.

Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, had warned that with variants spreading, "we stand to completely lose the hard-earned ground we have gained."

Biden urges patience on Covid as Republican governors go rogue on reopenings

The looming openings are paradoxically a symptom of Biden's success as confidence grows in the availability of vaccines, which have rolled out fast since he took office. But experts are warning that opening too quickly could provide the vast petri dish that new variants of Covid-19 need to thrive. Those variants are often not just more infectious, but they also could make the vaccines that are expected to pave the way out of the yearlong crisis less effective. That means that states like Texas and Mississippi, which were slow to adopt steps like mask wearing, are not just risking their own citizens but all other Americans too.

If new infections take hold before enough Americans are vaccinated, a desire to play into political sentiment that sees government scientific advice as tantamount to an infringement on individual freedom could delay a return to normal life.

"I have to be honest with you, this fight is far from over," Biden said at the White House, warning that the pandemic could begin to get worse as new variants, like those first found in the UK and South Africa, spread.

Yet in Texas, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott was taking exactly the opposite tack, announcing that grave economic pain and a fall in infections were leading him to lift a mask mandate and all restrictions on business from next week.

"It is now time to open Texas 100%," Abbott said.

The Texan is an ally of Donald Trump and one of a group of Southern governors who last year heeded the then-President's demands to reopen while flouting scientific advice, helping to trigger a summer infection surge that swelled the national death toll from the pandemic, which is now more than half a million.

'A gigantic mistake'

In some ways, these early openings are a case of those who ignore history being doomed to repeat it, with yet more premature declarations of victory over the virus -- after previous celebrations helped secure for the US the dubious distinction of having the most infections and most deaths from Covid-19.

"This is a gigantic mistake," Dr. Jonathan Rein

er, a professor of medicine at George Washington University, told CNN's Erin Burnett.

"They are not doing well ... we have seen this movie and it doesn't turn out well," Reiner said, referring to the state of the pandemic in Texas.

Another Southern Republican, Gov. Tate Reeves of Mississippi, also announced an end to all county mask mandates and said businesses can open from Wednesday at 100% capacity. "Our hospitalizations and case numbers have plummeted, and the vaccine is being rapidly distributed. It is time!" Reeves tweeted Tuesday.

The Republicans are not the only governors easing restrictions as new cases of Covid-19 and deaths from the virus have fallen following a holiday spike. Some states and cities run by Democrats are also doing so, but unlike Texas and Mississippi, they are not acting as though the virus has simply gone away.

The early openings are causing frustration in the White House, as Biden tries to make good on his vow to stamp out the virus and as new breakthroughs in manufacturing vaccines mean that relative safety could be just months away.

"We certainly understand the pressure governors are under and we appreciate the working relationship we have with Gov. Abbott," Andy Slavitt, senior adviser to the White House Covid-19 response team, told CNN's Wolf Blitzer.